CRJ: minimum or maximum standards?

There’s a row brewing between David Hanson and Alex Attwood over the form of scrunity to be used in monitoring the Community Restorative Justice schemes, which is in turn tied in with issue of public funding. The Minister denies receiving a response to his draft proposals for minimum standards, allowing schemes in Republican areas to operate beyond the auspices of the PSNI. In its detailed paper submitted to the minister last October the party argues that without maximum standards, the official state licensing of CRJ could lead to significant Human Rights abuses.According to yesterday’s PA report Attwood’s primary concern is that the integrity of the Criminal Justice Inspectorate may be compromised by undertaking to validate some schemes that don’t recognise the PSNI:

The CJI would be giving validation to restorative justice schemes even when the protocol does not cover 95% of restorative justice work. The protocol does not create independent complaints schemes. The requirements around training and human rights are inadequate. The commitment of restorative justice schemes to assist the police is vague and evasive.

The CJI has a critical role in investigating criminal justice institutions in the North. That is the role given to it following the Good Friday Agreement. It would be going into dangerous waters if it assumes a role in monitoring and accrediting restorative justice schemes, when the schemes are established on such weak and shoddy principles.

The party’s paper is more specific:

To be effective and to comply with Article 3.6 of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Non-Custodial Measures, a proper complaints mechanism must be independent and statutory – with full powers to call persons and papers and powers of entry and to seize documents – similar to the powers given to the Children’s Commissioner and Police Ombudsman. This could be done by a new restorative justice agency, as was envisaged by the Criminal Justice Review. What is critical, however, is that there is some competent independent statutory body to perform this function.

It does not believe that the internal mechanism as per the draft proposal can reliably fulfill this role. In respect of the protection of children it detects another deficit:

…all the human rights safeguards that apply to the state Youth Conferencing Service must also apply here.

These include:

i the right of a solicitor or a barrister for the child to attend;
ii presence of the police and, where appropriate, probation officers;
iii availability of legal aid;
iv the right of the child to refuse to be subject to the restorative justice programme at any time;
v screening of those engaged in restorative justice programmes to ensure that they are credible and suitable people to be involved in restorative justice. For example, to ensure they are appropriate to work with young people, do not have backgrounds in delivering punishment beatings or are otherwise unsuitable.

Finally, it lays out two conditions that should be met before government funding of CRJ schemes goes ahead:

First, an end to paramilitary community control in the relevant community. Cases like the murder of Robert McCartney and subsequent cover up have shown the lengths to which paramilitaries will go to protect their own members. To this day nobody in Magennis’s bar has provided any evidence of any value that could help bring Robert’s murderers to justice. The culture of community control by paramilitaries, loyalist and republican, must end before community restorative justice groups are funded in the relevant community. This must be demonstrated in the case of Robert McCartney in particular.

Second, and above all, there must be cooperation with the police and acceptance of the rule of law by parties from which community restorative justice groups take their lead. For example, Sinn Fein need to take their seats on the Policing Board and cooperate with the police and the rule of law.

On a more political angle, in his response to the Minster last night, Attwood pointedly suggests that the British government stance on the standards applicable to CRJ may be the result of a sidedeal already made with Sinn Fein:

What is of concern is that it may be that the government, having got its On The Run and state killers proposals badly wrong and had their sordid deal with the IRA so fully exposed, that they have decided that they will concede no ground on any other possible deals done with the provisional movement, including perhaps, any deal done on Restorative Justice. The SDLP very much hopes that is not the case.

  • msn@yahoo.com

    If the British government want Sinn Fein to endorse and support the PSNI, why then are they considering funding CRJ at all?

  • Crataegus

    The out workings of Tony’s RESPECT project.

    Respect or else.

  • J O’H

    Community Restorative Justice in the NI context represents an attempt by sectarian paramilitaries of both shades to bypass the state processes of law and order and to (perhaps literally) take up the cudgel of judge, jury and who-knows-what in their areas of influence (ghettoes). In other contexts it represents a worthwhile attempt to bring the perpetrators of crime into contact with their victims. Here it plays a part in the creeping balkanisation of an already divided community.

    The Minister, David Hanson, talks about setting standards in CRJ schemes. I wonder how he would feel if organisations (run by, let’s say, extreme Welsh nationalists) seeking to take over the policing role began to spring up in his own constituency of Delyn. Would he be quite as accommodating to CRJ in the housing estates of North Wales as he is in relation to Northern Ireland.

    I imagine he might begin to make speeches about the undermining the fabric of democracy and the threat of communalist fascism.

    The following is from Mr Hanson’s constituency web-page: (http://www.davidhanson.labour.co.uk/ViewPage.cfm?Page=17226)

    MP WELCOMES FUNDING BOOST FOR NORTH WALES POLICE

    Delyn MP David Hanson has welcomed the announcement of the latest funding figures for North Wales Police, released by the Home Office.
    The figures, which cover 2007-8, show that North Wales Police has been awarded some £75.4 million, an increase of 3.7% on the 2006-7 total.
    David Hanson said:
    “I am delighted that the Government has awarded North Wales Police this significant increase in funding to help it continue its excellent work in fighting crime and anti-social behaviour in Flintshire.
    This continues the unprecedented levels of investment in the fight against crime and builds on the increased numbers of police on our street, as well as Community Support Officers helping to keep Flintshire safe.
    The funding boost will help maintain record levels of policing, expand the numbers of Community Support Officers and represents a considerable boost to the rollout of neighbourhood policing.
    Law and order is rightly a top priority for the Government. The increase in police funding will ensure that North Wales Police has the resources it needs to tackle crime in all its forms.
    The Government’s investment has helped to expand local policing, reduce crime and make our communities safer. It has provided the investment to deliver record numbers of police officers, police staff and an expanding number of Community Support Officers (CSOs).
    The Government’s ambitious police reform programme continues to produce real improvements but there is still more to be done. I want to build a responsive, accessible police service which successfully tackles local concerns about crime and anti-social behaviour.
    This is a good settlement for North Wales Police. I am confident that this level of resourcing will enable them to continue to meet the high standards expected by the Flintshire public.”

  • Andytown Resident

    Alex Attwood is out of touch with the majority of people in West Belfast and out of an assembly seat, if it’s ever re-opened, come the next election.

  • AR:

    As a politician Attwood is presumably prepared to take his chances. It’s a gamble, but it could pay off. After Joe failed to get elected last time out, he must be favourite to take the bulk of 20% or so of voters in West Belfast that vote SDLP.

    Regardless of that, is he right in looking for “higher standards” on the implementation of CRJ?

  • martin ingram

    Mick,

    Dont worry aboutthe CRJ, this baby will get thrown out with the dirty water .

    Martin

  • On what basis Martin?

  • Belfast Gonzo

    I’m not sure I agree with Martin.

    By the time the whole CRJ issue is settled, Sinn Fein will be on the Policing Board. There won’t be any need to bypass the police, because Sinn Fein will be part of the police.

    Maybe..!

  • KD

    Belfast Gonzo

    I think that you’re right. Politics will probably overtake CRJ and the focus in a year or two will be on policing in republican areas with SF, via Policing Board, demanding ( rightly so)accountable and quality policing. The government know this hence the stalling on funding/protocols.